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Indiana University Student Builds AI Therapy App

A junior at Indiana University built an app that checks in with users daily and learns more about them as they talk to it, referring them to therapists if needed. He sold the app to a Silicon Valley tech firm.

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(TNS) — A recent Lake Central High School graduate sold an artificial intelligence therapy app he developed in his dorm room at Indiana University to a Silicon Valley tech firm.

The St. John native Matt Gacek, now a junior at IU, sold the app Theia to the company Miri for an undisclosed sum.

"I built a company with an app that learns and grows with its users," he said. "It uses their mood and chat history to learn and grow and offer hyper-specific guidance."

He came up with the idea when he went to therapy.

"It wasn't anything super-severe but a close friend recommended that I go," he said. "I was really scared to go to therapy and worried what others would think and if it would work."

Gacek, whose parents are Polish immigrants, said therapy wasn't embraced in Eastern European culture. So he said he came up with an app that checks in with people on their wellness and talks to them about their problems, referring them to therapists if needed.

He developed Theia, which is free to download on Google Play of the Apple App Store. It's free to use, getting its revenue from referrals to therapists. He was raising venture capital when a venture capitalist mentioned a similar company with synergies.

"Miri shared the same vision and we want to help as many people as possible," he said. "It was further along and closer to scaling. I told them I would love for them to buy us out and the rest is history."

His app is now being run by Miri and likely will be subsumed into the Miri app.

"It does daily check-ins about how grateful you're feeling and how you're doing in general," he said. "You can talk about your problems. As you chat it learns more and more about you and how you talk to give you the best solutions and recommendations. It asks for introspection. It helps if you're not used to talking about your emotions."

Gacek, a serial entrepreneur who started a cloud-based scheduling app for businesses while at Lake Central, is now working for Miri while continuing to pursue his studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

"I'm an entrepreneur. It's a life goal of mine," he said. "Honestly, making money holds no value for me. I just want to build a product."

Miri is a San Francisco Bay Area-based firm that looks to use AI to promote wellness. It includes experienced leaders like the former chief technology officer of Lyft.

"We are thrilled to welcome Matt Gacek to the Miri team. His experience in building Theia and his mission to change health and wellness through generative AI makes him an immediate asset," said Amy Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Miri.

Gacek also is considering ideas for his next project.

"This came out of nowhere," he said. "I was putting so many hours into it and focusing on success. It happened so fast, it was shocking to me."

He might next pursue an idea for an app that would allow one to use their photo as a building key to get into offices or dorms.

"I'm excited for what the future holds," he said.

©2023 The Times (Munster, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.